From family to fashion to, most important, food, Italians know how to live. "If you want to enjoy your life more, you might try living it more like an Italian," Rachael says. "A big laugh, a glass of wine, time to talk and laugh with each other, taking a moment to notice the simple pleasures — these are the keys to quality of life." We asked the experts how anyone can adopt the best parts of the bel paese. Because no matter your heritage, we could all use a little more dolce vita in our day.
The spritz is everywhere right now. This low-alcohol combination of bubbles and bitter liqueur “is just meant to be easy,” says Talia Baiocchi, editor in chief of PUNCH. “Prosecco is poured, then topped with soda water and a splash of Aperol. There are no arm garters or historical reenactments.” The Aperol spritz is the most iconic, but try this love child of the spritz and that other ubiquitous Italian cocktail, the Negroni.
Recipe: Try Talia Baiocchi's Bubbly Negroni Sbagliato
Aperitivo is basically Italian happy hour, a predinner tradition that always involves a drink and something to nosh on. “Italians don’t drink without eating,” says Spritz coauthor Talia Baiocchi. Or as Matt Goulding writes in Pasta, Pane, Vino: “If the bar you’re at doesn’t serve snacks, find another bar.”
Recipe: Try Ignacio Mattos's Fontina Arancini with Calabrian Chile Sauce
Put Pasta First
In Italy, pasta is number one, literally. It’s the primo, or the first course. “Pasta in Italy is a starter,” says chef Michael Symon. “When I grew up, pasta was an entrée, because it’s an affordable way to feed a lot of people. That’s one of the big differences between Italian and Italian American.” For an authentic Italian meal, keep the pasta portions small and the flavors big, then follow with a meaty main.
Recipe: Try Ori Menashe's Homemade Tagliatelle with Sausage, Kale & Caraway
When they’re not raiding their own home gardens, Italians buy fresh—and frequently. “You’re always shopping for the day,” says Vincenzo Betulia, chef-owner of Osteria Tulia in Naples, Florida. “In Sicily, it was customary for families to have an ortolano, a neighborhood vegetable seller. They would go around with a lambretta, which is a cart filled with fresh vegetables to sell.” No lambretta in your own hood? You can get the same effect by seeking out small farmers and other food vendors near you. “That participation and partnership with farmers, fishmongers, butchers, everyone—it’s the way of life in Italy,” says David Nayfeld, chef and co-owner of Che Fico in San Francisco.
Dress Your Best
For all those effortlessly fashionable Italians, style is less about trends and more about taking pride in how you look. “Having an eye for what looks good on you is part of the Italian DNA,” says Tony Mantuano, chef-partner at Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago. “People think about what they wear. Even if it’s a T-shirt and jeans, it’s a polished version of them.” This impulse is tied closely to la bella figura, an Italian concept focused on making every aspect of life as beautiful as it can be, writes Kamin Mohammadi in her memoir Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat the Italian Way: “It’s not just what you wear, or how you look, or keeping your figure slim. It’s more about taking care…being beautiful to yourself.”
Share the Pie
In Italy, you’re likely to get an entire pizza to yourself. “Pizza is an individual thing in Italy,” says Wade Moises, chef at Rosemary’s Pizza in New York City. “In America, it’s more communal.” No matter how you slice it (or don’t), pizza is a social activity that is best shared with others.
Recipe: Try Marc Vetri's Pizza with Kale, Gorgonzola & Speck
Merguez Pizza with Olives & Parsley Salad
Recipe: Try David Nayfeld's Merguez Pizza with Olives & Parsley Salad
Family Style Is the Only Style
In Italy, food and family are pretty much inseparable. And nowhere is that more evident than around the table during Sunday supper. The weekly tradition is followed as religiously as, well, religion. “No excuses, we ate together every Sunday,” says Elisa Costantini, author of Italian Moms: Something Old, Something New. “Dinner was at one o’clock, and everyone was expected to be there.” And the meal is as much about connection as it is cuisine. “The Italian table is where everything goes down,” says Michael Fiorelli, an Italian American chef based in Los Angeles. “You talk about the day; you have your arguments there. It’s become such a stereotype now, but it’s the real deal.”
Sure, we may not all be able to close up shop for a daily riposo (rest) like they do in Italy, but you can add some Italian-style leisure to your day in small ways: Take lunch in a nearby park instead of at your desk; skip crowded public transit to stroll home at sunset; or treat yourself to a fancy digestivo after dinner. “It’s taking the time to enjoy where you are, who you’re with, and the time of day,” says Tony Mantuano, chef-partner at Spiaggia in Chicago. “It’s so many things that we tend to forget about in America, where you’re always rushing, rushing, rushing. It really comes down to living in the moment more than anything.”